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Highland Woman Sentenced to Six Years in Fatal DUI Crash

Patch file photo by Eric Reed.
Patch file photo by Eric Reed.
Reported from Orange County by City News Service.

A Highland woman was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for a drunken 2011 crash on the 57 Freeway near Angel Stadium that knocked an 18-year-old man over a guardrail to his death.

Ashley Selina Bryan, 26, was convicted in December of drunken driving, but the panel deadlocked 11-1 on a manslaughter charge. On May 10, Bryan pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter.

Before she was sentenced by Orange County Superior Court Judge Lance Jensen, Bryan tearfully apologized to the victim's family, saying, "I stand before you today a woman filled with remorse and shame."

Bryan has been in rehab and engaged in substance programs since the collision, said her attorney, Marji Kirkwood of the Orange County Public Defender's Office.

"Something was taken that can never be given back," Bryan said of the death of her victim, Cameron Cook.

"I know I can never forgive myself, but I can only hope some day I will be forgiven," Bryan said.

The defendant said she has shared her story in rehab and substance abuse program meetings about 150 times "to hopefully deter others from making the same mistake."

She assured the judge, "I'm not the same person."

Bryan's mother, father and brother also spoke on her behalf, assuring the judge of the defendant's remorse.

"I know there is not a day that goes by since the accident that she does not wake up and think about what happened and how she could change what happened," Bryan's mother, Debra Parikh, said. "She feels deeply for the Cook family and what they are going through."

Her father, Robert Bryan, broke down several times as he read aloud a letter to the judge.

"I know Ashley regrets making many very bad decisions'' the night of the collision, Robert Bryan said. "My wife and I feel so terrible what happened and our hearts ache for Cameron's family."

Cook's parents wrote a lengthy letter to the judge explaining how their son's death has affected them and outlining how they think state law should be changed to include a mandatory minimum time behind bars for substance-abuse related deadly crashes. Dozens of supporters were at today's hearing, wearing buttons with the victim's face on it.

Jensen advised the victim's parents, Doug Cook and Bohdanna Witiuk, to not let their loss ruin their lives.

"I do hope you can channel your grief . . . to celebrate all the good things Cameron did," Jensen said. "I hope you can do something good in his memory. I would hate to have this traumatic event prevent you from living your life."

The judge encouraged Bryan to keep up her work with substance abuse groups.

"You will not only help yourself and others, Cameron's death will not have been in vain," Jensen said.

After the hearing, Cook's mother said, "We're taking (the judge's
comments) to heart."

Cook's parents said they would reach out to local lawmakers to advocate for mandatory jail time for drunken drivers who kill someone.

"She could have gotten community service, whish is absurd to us," Bohdanna Witiuk said.

Just before midnight April 2, 2011, Bryan was driving north on the 57 Freeway just south of Katella Avenue in Orange when she slammed her Honda Civic into a disabled 2001 Chevrolet Camaro on the right shoulder, according to Deputy District Attorney Anna McIntire.

The Camaro's driver, 18-year-old Logan Vescio, was sitting in a passenger seat while the car was on the shoulder, and his passenger, Cameron Cook of Ladera Ranch, was standing outside the car near the guardrail.

Bryan's car knocked the Camaro into Cook, who was pushed over the guardrail and fell 50 to 60 feet onto pavement below. He died several hours later a hospital.

Bryan's blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.17 percent - more than twice the legal limit - about 90 minutes after the crash, McIntire said.

Vescio suffered a concussion and cuts on his knees in the crash, McIntire said.

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